Council splits rushed bill, halts new cannabis clubs


After three and a half hours of discussion and debate, City Council passed the first reading of half of a highly-contested ordinance, which will will put a six-month moratorium on any new cannabis clubs. 

Council members Don Knight, District 1, and Larry Bagley, District 2, co-sponsored the moratorium on the opening of new cannabis clubs or medical marijuana facilities — dispensaries, grow operations and any other commercial businesses included.

After Knight and Bagley moved to vote on the bill, Council member Andy Pico, District 6, demanded the bill be bifurcated — split in two, so the Council could vote on moratoria for cannabis clubs and medical marijuana facilities separately.

Knight immediately presented a version of the bill with all references to medical marijuana removed and Council passed the measure 8-to-1, with Helen Collins, District 4, voting against it and stating that the rushed approval contradicted the Council's commitment to transparency. With the cannabis club moratorium passed, Council then voted 7-to-2 to move the vote on the first reading of the medical marijuana moratorium to their next regular meeting, slated for October 13, with Bill Murray and Tom Strand, both at-large, opposing. 

The ordinance was not added to the agenda as an emergency measure, contrary to best information available before the meeting — it will still have to be voted on again at the October 13 meeting. However, the moratorium on new cannabis clubs is in effect until the next meeting, whether it's passed or not.

Wynetta Massey of the City Attorney's office explained that because the ordinance included a September 22 planned start date, it falls under the Pending-Ordinance Doctrine. The Doctrine states that pending property ordinances can take effect on first reading, though they still have to be passed on second reading.

In effect, the ordinance was written to use this Doctrine to prevent more cannabis clubs from rushing to get grandfathered in under current rules before the second reading of the ordinance.

In plain English, Council approved a three-week moratorium on new cannabis clubs, and, on October 13, they will most likely vote to extend that moratorium to March 22, 2016.

This ordinance was released nine months to the day after KOAA released an investigative report on a local cannabis club, The Lazy Lion, and "discovered" that the club was using a legal grey area to provide its members with cannabis, as advertised on the Lion's website. This invites the question as to what the city has been doing to draft a licensing and legal structure for cannabis clubs in the last nine months. Collins asked that very question, but the discussion moved on before an answer was provided.

We will update this page with more information on the situation as it comes in.

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